London has some of the top restaurants in the world. Many of them have received Michelin stars, and many more are top-rated and are frequented by the social elite. But to every action there is a reaction; and Newton’s law finds expression everywhere, even here. Picture-perfect, highly acclaimed London restaurants have their counterparts in equally-stimulating quirky restaurants. Read on to find out what kinds of “quirks” makes a restaurant “quirky”.
Call it what you will, but putting a restaurant in an old hydraulic plant is definitely quirky. The Wapping Project is not just a restaurant, but a group collective that puts on art demonstrations. The website is a real hoot too, so make sure to check it out before going. And do go. There’s something absurdly refreshing about eating calmly in a space normally reserved for boisterous hard labor and booming mechanical monstrosities.
This small restaurant is packed wall to wall with memorabilia of the opera culture. Located in Drury Lane, Sarastro is quirky because not only do you get to dine under the opulent visages of opera’s history, but you will also be in the audience of a dedicated opera performance, or sometimes it’s a belly dancing performance, and sometimes it’s the waiters doing the dancing.
Circus is a bar. It is also a restaurant. And most important to its appearance on this list, it is a cabaret. The menu is pan Asian and provides your taste buds with all the right flavors. During the evening, as you dine on acclaimed dishes that are always evolving throughout the year, you will be assisting at various displays of aerobatic dexterity. Performances happen in little bursts and end just as quickly, but there are many of them, ranging from tightrope dancers to hula-hoop displays and fire swingers.
So named for the fact that there is live music performances on a nightly basis, Jamboree is an artist’s paradise. There’s even an in-house artist who paints the band and audience every day. The bar-restaurant is attached to Cable Street Studios, where artists live, but you won’t be able to tell where to go unless you have an ear perked for the music—there’s no signage. Once inside, you’ll see the random stuff pasted to the walls; it’ not something particularly unique, but this well-ordered and –spaced joint has pulled it off attractively. Sundays are best because live jazz accompanies clients as they sit to games of Scrabble at their tables.
La Bodega Negra
This Mexican hacienda restaurant wins for the process of getting in. It’s in Soho, and it will require a reservation. Make sure you’re reserving for the downstairs restaurant, not the upstairs one. When you get there, you’ll find the street level tacqueria “La Bodega Negra,” but that’s not where you’re going. You have to go around the corner and onto Old Compton Street. There, you must pass through a sex shop entrance, which really does look like a sex shop; and when you go in, it could very well be—it has all the right merchandise. But the man should have a list, and you should be on it. Downstairs, you’ll discover comfy booths and set tables among what should normally be dank concrete walls, but which are rendered soothing by the amber light and careful decor of tequila barrels and upturned piano.
There are more quirky joints to consider, but your cup of tea is, for the moment, filled to the brim.